Citi’s newest (and most flexible) cash-back card: Citi Custom Cash review
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Citi Custom Cash℠ Card overview
The Citi Custom Cash℠ Card is the issuer’s newest cash-back card option with no annual fee. This card provides the unique ability to earn up to 5% back on your top spending category each billing cycle — on up to the first $500 spent. Whether you’re a credit card newbie or want a card that will help you maximize your purchases that don’t fit in other traditional bonus categories, you’ll want to consider adding this pick to your wallet. Card rating*: ⭐⭐⭐
* Card rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
Unlike the issuer’s popular Citi® Double Cash Card (with up to a 2% cash back rate on all purchases; 1% when you buy and 1% as you pay), the new Custom Cash Card also has no annual fee but takes a unique approach. You’ll earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spending category each billing cycle, on up to the first $500 spent.
This could potentially be a compelling offer for cardholders who want to maximize their purchases with up to a terrific 5% cash-back rate. Let’s review this new card and see who this offer is best for.
Who is this card for?
Many credit cards offer bonus rewards on fixed categories each month, such as travel, dining or groceries. While these are purchases that indeed take up a sizable chunk of most consumers’ budgets, what about those other purchases that don’t fit under these categories?
That’s where the Citi Custom Cash comes in. This card comes with a unique rewards rate that changes each billing cycle, giving cardholders the flexibility to earn an excellent 5% back on purchases that traditionally wouldn’t fit under other fixed categories offered by other cards.
This new card will especially be enticing for existing Citi cardholders. Even though the Custom Cash is branded as a cash-back card, you’ll earn rewards in the form of Citi ThankYou points. If you already own one of Citi’s travel rewards cards (such as the Citi® Prestige Card or the Citi® Premier Card), you can combine the points earned on that card with the points earned on the Custom Cash. Note that you can also combine your rewards if you own the Citi Double Cash or the Citi Rewards+® Card for even more cash back.
The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Finally, this card would also be a great pick for your first cash-back card since the Custom Cash offers 5% automatically on your top spending category — taking the guesswork out of earning rewards.
Note that there’s also a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers and purchases for the first 15 months. After that, the variable APR will range from 13.99% to 23.99%, depending on your creditworthiness. Another subset of customers who would benefit from this card is someone who wants to lower their debt and take advantage of this introductory APR offer.
We’re a fan of the Citi Custom Cash Card since it comes with an easily attainable sign-up bonus — you’ll earn $200 cash back after spending $750 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
This sign-up bonus is relatively comparable to other no-annual-fee cash-back cards (although the Citi Double Cash completely lacks a sign-up bonus). While it’s certainly not the most outstanding offer out there, the sign-up bonus is a nice little incentive to apply.
Main benefits and perks
The Citi Custom Cash is light on other benefits, which isn’t a total surprise since there’s no annual fee. However, there are a few perks and essential security features that you may find appealing:
- Access to Citi Entertainment, which helps cardholders find and purchase exclusive tickets for concerts, sporting events and more.
- Contactless payment.
- A free check of your FICO credit score.
- Identity theft protection that monitors and alerts cardholders in case of suspicious activity.
- Citi Identity Theft Solutions, which will assist you if you’re experiencing identity fraud or theft.
How to earn
Each billing cycle (roughly every month or so), you’ll earn 5% cash back on the first $500 of purchases from your top spending category. Here are the 10 categories eligible for this 5% cash-back rate:
- Gas stations
- Grocery stores
- Select travel*
- Select transit**
- Select streaming services***
- Home improvement stores
- Fitness clubs
- Live entertainment
*Select travel is defined as airlines, hotels, cruise lines and travel agencies
**Select transit is defined as car rentals, ferries, commuter railways, subways, taxis/limousines/car services, passenger railways, bridge and road tolls, parking lots/garages, bus lines and motor home and recreational vehicle rentals. It also includes merchants that sell electricity for charging an electric vehicle.
***Select streaming services are defined as cable, satellite and streaming providers such as Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Music, Apple Music, CBS All Access, Disney+, AT&T TV NOW, ESPN+, fuboTV, HBO Max, NBA League Pass, Netflix, Pandora, Showtime, Sling TV, Spotify, Starz, SiriusXM, Vudu, YouTube Red, YouTube TV and Tidal
This unique rewards rate gives cardholders the flexibility to maximize purchases that traditionally wouldn’t fit under fixed categories offered by other cards. This is a card that truly caters to your lifestyle, whether you’re jet-setting one month or cheffing it up in the kitchen in another month. If you max out the $500 spending limit each billing cycle, you’ll earn $25 in cash-back rewards per month — for a potential maximum of $300 in rewards annually.
Depending on what type of consumer you are, the $500 threshold each month may be too low or just right for you. Assess your spending habits and see if you’ll benefit from a card that doesn’t come with a spending cap, as you’ll only earn 1% cash back after you maximize this limit. If you’re a high spender, you’ll want to apply for the Citi Double Cash instead since it earns 2% back on all purchases (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay) with uncapped potential.
How to redeem
As mentioned above, you’ll earn all your rewards in the form of Citi ThankYou points. To put it in simple terms, 1 ThankYou point equates to 1 cent of cash-back rewards. That means you’ll earn 5% back (or 5 points per dollar) on the first $500 spent on your top eligible spending category.
There’s no minimum balance you need to reach before accessing your rewards — which isn’t the case for many cash-back cards (including the Citi Double Cash, which requires you to reach a balance of $25 first). You can request a statement credit or direct deposit at any time. However, if you’re requesting a check, there is a minimum rewards balance of $5 (or 500 points).
The rewards potential becomes even greater if you’re a cardholder of either the Citi Prestige or Citi Premier cards. You can combine any rewards you earn from the Custom Cash with the rewards earned on Citi’s mid-tier Premier Card and premium Citi Prestige Card. Since the Prestige and the Premier are both travel rewards cards, you’ll then unlock access to Citi’s 16 airline transfer partners, including lucrative frequent flyer programs such as Avianca LifeMiles and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.
Which cards compete with the Citi Custom Cash Card?
For those who want to avoid paying an annual fee altogether, there are (fortunately) many options to choose from on the market today.
As mentioned several times, the first card to consider would be the Citi Double Cash. This card is excellent for beginners since you’ll earn 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay off your bill (for a total of 2% cash back on all your purchases). However, this card requires you to accrue $25 in rewards before redeeming cash back.
Finally, another card with a comparable rewards rate to the Custom Cash is the Chase Freedom Flex. Also, with no annual fee, you’ll earn 5% back on up to $1,500 in purchases on rotating bonus categories each quarter you activate — which breaks down to roughly $500 in spending each month. Chase will set the bonus categories each quarter, but in the past, we’ve seen common vendors such as Amazon, Walmart, home improvement stores and gas stations included in these rotating categories.
However, the Custom Cash has a slight leg up on the Flex since your top spending category changes each billing cycle and is totally based on your spending habits. Meanwhile, you may find that some of the quarters on the Flex’s rotating calendar may not align with your lifestyle.
You may find that your spending habits change frequently and want a card customized to your lifestyle. The Citi Custom Cash Card is a terrific choice, as you’ll gain true flexibility to earn rewards depending on your spending habits. Adding the Custom Cash may also be a good idea for existing Citi cardholders to maximize their rewards through the Citi ThankYou program.
Application link: Citi Custom Cash Card with $200 cash back after spending $750 in the first three months of account opening.
Featured photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy.
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